The multi-millionaire founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Richard Stephenson, and his wife, Alicia Stephenson, have been locked in a bitter divorce battle for the better part of the last decade, and the case has been on trial in Illinois since October 2016. One of the more contentious issues in the case is Mrs. Stephenson's request for $400,000.00 per month in alimony. While this amount may seem shocking to some, divorce courts in most states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have the discretion to order such an amount, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
A key factor to understand about alimony awards is that they are not intended to merely provide subsistence living, or to simply meet the basic needs of the supported spouse. In most cases, alimony is supposed to be a means by which the supported spouse can maintain a lifestyle reasonably comparable to the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage. In the Stephensons' case, where there are millions of dollars in earnings, private jets, multiple homes, extensive household staff, and expensive parties and vacations, it may be possible that a Judge will find $400,000.00 monthly to be a reasonable and necessary amount for Mrs. Stephenson to maintain the marital lifestyle.
Another key factor in determining an alimony award is the length of the marriage and the earning capacity of the supported spouse. Longer marriages tend to result in longer periods of alimony payments. And when the supported spouse has been unemployed for a long period of time, or the parties have arranged to have the supported spouse stay out of the workforce in order to maintain the home and raise the children, this also tends to result in longer, and larger, alimony awards. In the Stephensons' case, the parties are ending an 18-year marriage. Further, Mrs. Stephenson held some high-level positions with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America during the marriage, but there appears to be dispute about her qualifications and the extent of her actual involvement with the company during the marriage. The extent of Mrs. Stephenson's experience, and her potential for employability outside of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, will likely play heavily into the Judge's ultimate decision on the alimony issue.
Mr. Stephenson contends that a $400,000.00 monthly support tag is both beyond his means, and beyond the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. These are also important considerations for the Judge to take into account when determining alimony, and are fact-intensive questions for a Judge to examine on a case-by-case basis. Decisions regarding the extent of the marital lifestyle, and the ability of the supporting spouse to pay, will often come down to the evidence that each spouse is able to produce, and their respective abilities to credibly present that evidence to the Court.
While few cases will involve the high numbers of the Stephensons' case, alimony is a critical and often conflict-ridden aspect of many divorces. If you have an issue involving alimony or spousal support, please contact one of our experienced New Jersey and Pennsylvania Divorce and Family Law attorneys today to set up a free consultation.
The foregoing is intended to be a general discussion of the law and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. If you have a specific question, please contact our office to speak with an attorney.